When I was a little kid, my mom used to make clothes for me and the rest of my siblings. Most of what we wore was homemade, from our mittens and hats to our Easter Sunday suits, complete with blazers and matching shorts.
Now, my wife is pregnant with our first child, and the plan is for me to be the stay-at-home dad. Which means that if I want to continue the family tradition, I have no option but to learn how to sew.
I have done some sewing in the past. I took Home Economics in 8th grade, where I learned to hand stitch. I’ve used my hand-stitching abilities to replace countless lost buttons, and even to make a board bag for my bodysurfing handplane out of an old pair of sweatpants and a rain coat.
But, I know that in order to do some real sewing, I needed to become comfortable with a sewing machine, which is probably one of the most intimidating pieces of machinery still used in the 21st century. It takes nine steps just to get one spool of thread hooked up to the needle. And that’s not even counting getting the bobbin in place, which is another five steps. No wonder getting set up is often the most overwhelming part of sewing.
I signed my wife and I up for an introductory sewing class at Workshop SF, a haven for all things DIY. Workshop SF was created by Kelly Malone (of Indie Mart fame) and David Knight, who goes by DK. In two years of operation, Workshop has expanded to offer 35-40 classes a month, ranging from Sewing 101 to glass jar terrariums, which are taught by Kelly or one of the other dozen teachers they employ.
DK runs the business side of Workshop SF, and was there to meet me when I showed up early to learn about Workshop’s approach and ethos. “We wanted to offer an opportunity for folks who didn’t know how to sew or screen print, but weren’t necessarily interested in a 6 week art class that costs several hundred dollars,” he explained, “We offer 3-hour classes on the basics."
The décor of Workshop SF is raw and charming, complete with recycled wood paneling, heavy metal records, and handmade trinkets. Our teacher for the night was Carmen Sanches, who has a BFA in textile design and whose full-time gig is being the visual manager at Anthropologie. Carmen has been teaching at Workshop SF for over a year, and has been sewing for close to 15 years. I was, as I expected, the only male in the six-student class, a typical size for the school.
The first half of the three-hour class was familiarizing ourselves with the mechanics of a sewing machine. Carmen demonstrated, and we all followed, with varying degrees of success, and then practiced stitching on a patch of denim.
From there, it was on to the two sewing projects. First, we made a beer koozie, because it’s very much in the Workshop SF vibe, and it also taught us basics that are translatable for other projects. Then, we created a sock monster.
Our sewing machines rattled and we chit-chatted but we never quite droned out the sounds of Guns n' Roses and AC/DC playing in the background. There were two new moms in the class, so we inevitably gabbed about babies. My wife, who is very much in the nesting phase of her pregnancy, kept stopping to grab me and excitedly exclaim how cute and fun the whole thing was.
After three hours, I have to admit that it was really cute and fun. Yes, I had a few gently mocking messages from friends afterward, but that’s okay. It’s satisfying to take ownership for the material things you surround yourself with. It’s even more fulfilling to put time and labor into something if it’s for someone you love, even if it’s minor, and seemingly meaningless, and a sock monster.
I will be back to Workshop SF, for sure. I’ve only gotten started, and still need to learn how to quilt, make shirts, and patch torn knees in pants. I’m really hoping they have a class for making suits with matching blazers and shorts.
Workshop SF is located at 1798 McAllister Street in NOPA. Their website has a dynamic calendar of classes where you can RSVP for their various offerings.